Along with river otters, meth tweakers and John Ashcroft, Missouri is richly populated with a dazzling variety of garage-rock bands. And in a moving spectacle reminiscent of the big coronation scene in The Lion King, fourteen of the wildest will migrate to St. Louis this weekend for the Show-Me Blowout (www.troubleinrivercity.com/blowout).
This pan-Missouri garage-rock festival was conceived and executed by the tireless Jeff Kopp, the mastermind behind garagepunk.com and in-veterate promoter of all things loud and decadent. Kopp trawled through "hundreds" of Missouri-based bands' MySpace pages to round out the two nights and one afternoon of the festival. But fourteen bands in two days is still a lot for the layperson to take in, so here's a field guide to the best of the baddest:
Who: In hibernation since spring 2005 (but not in rehab or prison, as its rawkus 300-proof sound might suggest), the mighty Cripplers will headline Friday night a set that portends a Saturday full of hangovers and ringing ears.
Native to: Columbia, but has been based in St. Louis for the last several years.
Call: Overdriven, maxxed-out, sped-up, drunk (but not sloppy-drunk) rock & roll. The band is much better heard than described.
Recent Specimen: Nothing too recent, but its 2001 debut on Dionysus, One More For The Bad Guys, is thee holy scripture of the millennial Show-Me scene, amen.
Who: The braynechylde of local-rock fixture, KDHX DJ and evil clown Jeff Hess, the Geargrinders had been extinct since 1999. But Kopp hectored them into reforming to headline the second night of the blowout, accompanied by Jason Edge (a.k.a. Mr. Exene Cervenka) of the Original Sinners.
Native To: St. Louis.
Call: Spidery surf-guitar lines, psychedelic organ, chunky garage chordage, howling vocals, too much echo if it's trashy and primitive, you'll find it in at least one Geargrinders song.
Recent Specimen: Sadly, none since a 1998 seven-inch EP and a few comp tracks from around the same time. But hopes are high for the reformed band to get back into the studio if they can find one that'll have them.
Who: Reports of frontman Jeremiah Kidwell's frantic stage antics have prompted local authorities to put security forces on "pink alert."
Native To: Kansas City.
Call: If the Ramones took the blues out of punk rock, the Pink Socks put it back in, with swampy riffs and the occasional harmonica honk. Don't worry, kids this isn't your old man's R&B.
Recent Specimen: None yet, but Kidwell can be heard in fine fettle on We Told You Not To Cross Us... (Crypt), the 1997 demi-classic by his old band the Revelators.
Who: Not a guy named Monte Carlos, or two guys named Monte and Carlos, but three guys who play overclocked gonad-punk tunes with titles like "Horny" and "Vampire."
Native To: Columbia, but currently operating in Champaign, Illinois. What is it with Columbia garage-rock bands moving away?
Call: Snarling guitar leads and huge choruses might give them a more "contemporary" sound than many of their fellow Blow-Outees, but in the best possible way, á la the Mooney Suzuki.
Recent Specimen: None captured to date.
The Rich Boys
Who: Punk mythology paints the early '70s as a wasteland of Doobie Brothers and Steely Dans, but the Rich Boys remember the proto-punk and glam sounds of those dark ages. Like a less wanky Spiders From Mars, a male version of the Runaways or a non-androgynous New York Dolls, the Rich Boys bring all the satisfaction of Me Decade rock without the flab and fluff.
Native To: Kansas City.
Call: Campy, catchy, streamlined.
Recent Specimen: Its self-released 2007 disc $ boasts ten compressed FM-radio stormers and one un-Googleable title.
Thee Fine Lines
Who: The southwestern corner of the state is more known for Yakov Smirnoff, Shoji Tabuchi and other Branson freakshows, but Thee Fine Lines have been flying the freakbeat flag since 2001. It's taken them around this country and elsewhere and beyond and so forth and so on.
Native To: Springfield.
Call: A 1966-vintage melange of powerchord rockers, introspective proto-psych moodiness and pop hooks.
Recent Specimen: Set You Straight, the band's second full-length, came out this year on Screaming Apple Records.
Who: These youngish Joplinites are almost enough to give one hope for the future of the rock & roll youth of America. Are they breeding any more like this down there? And can they send a few our way?
Native To: Joplin.
Call: Snotty and lo-fi but soulful, catchy as Ebola and not afraid of a ballad. If ideological issues prevent you from enjoying the early Rolling Stones, here's your low-fat substitute.
Recent Specimen: An EP called Really Jacqueline!, self-released this year.
Ah, if only space permitted an examination of the merits of the super-poppy 75s, the nihilistic Nevermores, the adorable Vultures, the muddy Left Arm or the curl-shooting Von Hodads. Sometimes it seems like being in Missouri is the worst thing about St. Louis, but the Show-Me Blowout is an embarrassment of homegrown riches. Chances are there won't be another garage-rock spectacular like this in St. Louis in our lifetimes. (Unless, of course, Jeff Kopp decides to do it again next year...) 8 p.m., Friday, October 12, with The Cripplers, Pink Socks, the Rich Boys, the Modern Primitives and Left Arm; and 8 p.m., Saturday, October 13, with The Geargrinders, Thee Fine Lines, the Von Hodads, Monte Carlos, the Nevermores. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10 each night or $15 for both nights. 21+ up only. 314-773-3363. Also, the Vultures, the 75s, the Vickroids and the Mad Titans play an afternoon barbecue at 1 p.m., Saturday, October 13. Apop Records, 2831 Cherokee Street. Free. All ages. 314-664-6575.